Here’s How To Prevent Your Cat From Running Away

scared cat run away

It’s probably any cat parent’s worst nightmare, our beloved cat running away from us. Contrary to what you might think, cats do not really “run away”. Often they just need to have some alone time, for example, to find a mate. Other times they choose to leave us for often apparent reasons.

Cats are very attached to their territory, and as a general rule, they will only leave it if they feel there is no other option. A cat may run away because it feels it’s not properly cared for, if it is in danger, or generally in search of a better life. Cats also leave their home to search for a mate or when they feel that they’re going to die.

Main reasons why cats run away

Although there might be several reasons why cats leave their home, these all boil down to a few leading causes, which we will discuss one-by-one. 

Apart from cats running away because their instinct tells them to, such as for mating purposes or because they feel the end of their life is near, cats generally leave because they think they can have a better life elsewhere.

We should not forget that ages ago, cats choose to live together with humans because they saw that it had many advantages such as a safe environment, a warm place to sleep, and plenty of food.

In fact, you could say that man didn’t domesticate cats; cats domesticated themselves.

When looking at it like that, it makes perfect sense that if we want our kitties to continue to live with us, we should provide for them and make sure they are safe and well cared for.

Cats run away because something scared them

It’s actually quite common for cats to leave their home because they are scared of something and no longer feel safe. 

This is usually not something that happens once but often a continued factor in their lives. It could be an abuser (human or animal), like that mean dog that your neighbor lets run loose or other external factors.

One of my cats was scared so bad from fireworks being lit on the 4th of July that it ran away and didn’t come home for days. Luckily she found her way back eventually, but not all cats are that lucky.

Cats who had a good scare may have run far away in search of safety. Possibly so far that they cannot find their way home again.

Cats leave when they are not being cared for

Although cats are known to be relatively low maintenance pets, they are still living beings who need care, affection, and attention.

Some cats like Siamese cats, Persian cats, and Ragdoll cats are even known for their high maintenance and need for human companionship. 

sleeping cat

Even though most cats are perfectly fine being by themselves for a while, they don’t like being neglected. An ignored cat who feels it is no longer welcome, loved, and cared for will eventually start looking for a new home.

They may not actively look for a new place to call home, but they are easily persuaded by neighbors who feed them or show affection.

Take good care of your feline, feed it on time, provide a warm and dry place to sleep, and give it some love from time to time, and you won’t have to worry about your cat leaving you.

Cats may leave to find their old home

A very common reason for cats leaving their home is to find their old territory back after a relocation.

Cats are pretty attached to their surroundings and their territory. They are, therefore, not a fan of moving house. When forced to a new location without the proper preparation, they might try to find their old home. 

If you’re preparing for a move, give your cat time to adjust to its new surroundings. There are several ways to do this.

  • Before moving day, bring your cat along to the new house to get familiar with it. This way, your cat can get used to its new surroundings before moving in and get used to the house’s layout and smells.
  • After moving in, restrict your cat’s access temporarily. Give your cat time to get used to its new surroundings step by step and not the whole house at once. This can be overwhelming to your cat.
  • Keep outdoors cats inside for the first couple of weeks. After your cat got used to its new home and has had time to explore and accept its new environment, you can let them go outside.
  • When moving in, make sure your cat has access to things that are familiar to it. Having items that belong to your cat, like a blanket, a toy, or a cat bed, with their scent on it will expedite the process of getting used to a new home.

Cats may leave if they’re not fed adequately

If your cat doesn’t like the menu or you feed them irregularly, they might go and shop around in the neighborhood. Maybe there is this kind neighbor that feeds stray cats. If your cat likes the menu elsewhere better, that might be a reason for them to leave.

Obviously, we’re not saying that if you forget to feed your cat once, they will walk away. However, it can be a contributing factor in your cat not feeling happy.

Cats thrive on a healthy, balanced, and diverse diet. It’s best to feed your cat food from a quality brand to ensure they get all the nutrients and vitamins they need to stay healthy.

If you’re wondering whether wet or dry cat food is best, read our article about it here.

Cats leave when they are about to die

This is a rather sad truth that applies to all cats. When they feel the end is near and they have the opportunity to, they will quietly leave to find a suitable, remote spot to die alone.

To us, this sounds very counterintuitive because we would expect that your cat would want to be surrounded by their loving family to help them pass over to the other side. At least, that is what we humans would want for ourselves.

The truth is that this is not what cats want. 

Cats prefer to die alone. Part of this is rooted deep within their being. The reason for this is that when they lived in the wild, they would not want to make themselves a target for predators or weaken the group with their presence when they feel they are dying. 

For that reason, they would prefer to find a quiet spot and wait for the end.

We, as cat parents, should just accept this as your cat’s last wish. Please understand that it has nothing to do with you. If anything, your cat understands this and goes away to not be a nuisance to you or endanger the pack with their presence.

Cats run away to find a mate

Lastly, one of the common reasons for cats to run away is to find a mating partner. 

We should not underestimate their powerful and primal instincts. A cat in heat will do literally anything to break free and find a mate. This goes for male as well as female cats. 

The only way to prevent this from happening is to neuter your cat.

If your cat does succeed in breaking out, know that cats in heat can be gone for several days to find a partner, but eventually, they will come back home. More often than not, when they finally do come back, they are dirty, hungry, and tired.

In rare cases, a cat in heat is so excited that they wander too far and get lost. In that case, chipping your cat or having a way to track their whereabouts increases the chance of reuniting.

Do cats come back when they run away?

Final thoughts

If there is anything that we, cat parents, dread, it is our lovely cat babies running away from us.

The best way to avoid cats running away is to give them a loving and caring home. Look after their needs and feed them a suitable diet. Recognize that sudden changes may confuse or scare your cat. Give them time to process and adjust to change when needed.

Tom Alexander is a life-long cat parent and enjoys sharing a home with his cat Max and his family. Being a devoted cat person, his passion for everything feline and blogging is the driving force behind As the founder and editor at Cat & Friends, Tom aims to provide an interesting and great resource for cat owners.

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